World Hepatitis Day is July 28th
Hepatitis has gone viral, but not in a good way. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, and it also means trouble for millions of people each year. Hepatitis is usually caused by a viral infection, yet sometimes can result from heavy alcohol use, certain medications, or some medical conditions. Right now, it’s viral hepatitis the world is worried about because hepatitis is highly contagious, and many people aren’t aware they’re infected or that the virus can be prevented. The urgent need for hepatitis awareness and action has led to the recognition of World Hepatitis Day on July 28th. Continue reading to get an understanding of what is hepatitis, the variety of viruses, common hepatitis symptoms, and hepatitis prevention and hepatitis treatment options available today. Then, get the word out to the world about hepatitis because support and prevention can be contagious.
The viral spread of hepatitis
Hepatitis is causing a world of problems. With several strains of the hepatitis virus making their way around the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more 354 million people worldwide are living with one of the viral strains of what is hepatitis. In the United States alone, tens of thousands of people become infected with the disease every single year.
The ABCs of hepatitis
Hepatitis is practically an alphabet of viruses. The five main strains of the hepatitis virus are known as A,B,C,D, and E. While each strain of hepatitis causes the liver to become inflamed, all strains are not the same. They differ in several ways, such as how they’re spread and how severe they may become. The most common and critical strains are hepatitis B and C, which can lead to chronic liver disease, damage, and failure. Take a closer look at each virus:
- Hepatitis A – This viral strain is highly contagious and spreads through consuming contaminated food and drinks, as well as through close contact with an infected person. This form of hepatitis causes mild-to-moderate illness with symptoms that disappear quickly. Luckily, nearly everyone recovers and develops lifelong immunity. With this strain of hepatitis, prevention is possible by getting vaccinated.
- Hepatitis B – This potentially life-threatening strain of the infection is a global health problem. Hepatitis B can be spread from mother to child during childbirth, through sexual contact, through needles used in piercing and tattooing, and by reusing syringes when injecting drugs. For many, this type of hepatitis causes only short-term illness, but others can develop a chronic liver infection that can lead to major liver disease. While there is no hepatitis treatment other than basic oral medications, a vaccine is available and recommended for hepatitis prevention as soon as possible after birth.
- Hepatitis C – This common strain of hepatitis causes illness from slight to severe. It’s spread by direct contact with blood from an infected person through drug use or unsafe healthcare settings. While there’s no vaccine for this strain, avoiding risky behaviors that can cause the infection is the key to hepatitis prevention.
- Hepatitis D – This strain only occurs in people infected with hepatitis B. It’s spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person during sex, drug use, tattooing, piercing, or childbirth. Hepatitis D is a major concern because it can lead to the rapid progression of hepatitis B, causing liver disease and failure.
- Hepatitis E – This strain is found in the stool of an infected person and spread when it’s unknowingly ingested. It’s common in developing countries due to the lack of clean water and safe food. No vaccine is available, but most people fully recover without later complications.
Vital signs and symptoms
Many people don’t have any hepatitis symptoms and rarely feel sick until the infection has advanced. When hepatitis symptoms do appear, they can range from slight to serious based on the viral strain. While symptoms may emerge and vanish quickly, they can also develop into serious liver damage, liver cancer, or liver failure. Contact your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor immediately to be tested if you experience any of these hepatitis symptoms:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Yellowish skin or eyes
- Stomach pain
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
Prescribing the right hepatitis treatment
When it comes to hepatitis treatment, one remedy doesn’t fit all. Hepatitis A usually resolves itself, while treatment for hepatitis B is only available for chronic cases and involves antiviral drugs to slow the progression. Hepatitis C can be cured more than 95% of the time with a series of pills, but treatment should start as soon as possible to prevent any liver damage. There’s no specific cure for hepatitis D and only mildly effective treatments for chronic cases, while hepatitis E tends to be mild and goes away on its own. Beyond any available treatments, the best shot at hepatitis prevention is vaccination with one of the hepatitis vaccines. Today, vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B, but the hepatitis B vaccine can also help people with hepatitis D.
Spreading the word to stop the spread
The world can no longer wait to eliminate hepatitis and provide help to the millions who need it. Some types of hepatitis can be treated and prevented, but most people around the world don’t have access to vaccines, testing, or treatment. World Hepatitis Day provides the perfect opportunity to join the fight to bring more research and resources to the world to wipe out hepatitis altogether.
By helping others understand what is hepatitis and what can be done to treat and prevent it, you can make a world of difference.